Thursday, 30 April 2009

Life on a Bike Edge (Part II)

I had a grand plan for my bike trip. In the true tradition of all grand plans, this naturally had one very major flaw.

Before I left London, I borrowed Historic Paris Walks from my local library. I quite fancied the "Americans in Paris: from the Lost Generation to the Beats" walk, combining as it does the Latin Quarter with literary Paris (which happen to be two of my favourite things).

So then I came up with a bright idea: "I know, I won't walk the walk. I'll cycle it". This was shortly followed by a bout of self-congratulatory patting on the back and a smug feeling.

Unfortunately this smug feeling departed rather rapidly when I started cycling. What I had failed to consider was the number of one way streets on the walk. Now, this isn't a problem if you're walking, but it clearly is if you're on a bike! When I navigated the Boulevard St Germain for the 3rd time, I realised I would have to wing it.

I was fairly prepared for the full lunacy of the Parisian traffic, but some of the manoeuvres took my breath away. I lost count of the number of hatchbacks that beetled past me, spotted a parking space and then (without drawing breath), screeched to a stop and reversed straight into my path.

So I got off the main roads as soon as I could and pottered happily around the back streets of the Latin Quarter for an hour or so. There is something good for the soul about floating down a Parisian street in the spring sunshine, passing another row of perfect chestnut trees and smelling the café. I found a few of the places on the walk, such as the original site of Shakespeare and Company.

Then I had the pleasure of interacting with a Gendarme on a motor bike. My crime? Apparently I'd gone through a red light over a particularly snarled up junction . Parisian Gendarmes are bred especially, in order to ensure the necessary level of misanthropy. The general feeling I was left with was "Well Madame, it may only be a red light today, but franchement (frankly) it's a short road from here to mass murder".

I pottered contritely off, found the nearest Vélib station and returned my bike. That café was calling.

12 Rue de l'Odeon, the site of the original Shakespeare & Company bookshop
Owned and run by Sylvia Beach, it was a second home to Hemingway, Fitzgerald et al.
Without this, there would possibly have been no Great Gatsby

And without Sylvia, there would have been no Ulysses

Today's bookshop. Still plays host to a selection of readers, writers and general vagabonds

Words and Pictures © Louise Heal 2009

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